Sunday, the day after the CIF Open Division championship game, Islander Head Boys Water Polo Coach Randy Burgess announced his retirement from coaching. In an E-mail addressed to the Islander Family Burgess he said in part, “Although I am quite proud of our successes and records over the past three decades, I am absolutely overwhelmed by the men who have come through our program, truly defining the meaning of ‘Commitment,’ ‘Accomplishment,’ ‘Success,’ and ‘Humility.’ I have had so many great experiences and memories. I have so many to people to graciously thank for the opportunity and for all the support. Mostly, I wish to thank all of the athletes, this year’s team especially, as well as each and every other squad. I wish I taught each of those teams just a fraction of what they have taught me throughout the years. I am blessed and humbled.”
Burgess took the reins of the Islander Water Polo program starting with the 1981-82 season and except for a two-year hiatus to complete his Master’s degree while coaching at Mesa College, he has been at CHS since, a coaching career spanning 33 seasons. September 25, 2015, during the America’s Finest City Tournament which Coronado hosts, Burgess earned his 700th career victory against Buchanan High School. He concluded his career with 715 victories.
Burgess-led teams in 2000 and 2001 were the two most dominant Islander sports teams I have covered in the 18 years I have written this column, each earning acclaim as the best in the United States. Burgess also coached U.S. Olympians Layne Beaubien, Genai Kerr and Jesse Smith at CHS. His teams have included 16 CIF San Diego Section Players of the Year. Perhaps as importantly, nearly 20 program alumni have gone on to become U.S. Navy SEALs, a statistic which is close to Burgess’ heart.
Burgess approached scheduling his teams’ games much the way he approached dealing with me. He wouldn’t duck an opponent and he was never not available to discuss his team, even on the rare occasions where his team wasn’t performing as well as he expected. During a phone conversation Sunday evening, I suggested that over the years he had seen a whole lot of water polo. Burgess replied, “It doesn’t seem like it. I know I’m going to miss it, but it’s going to be difficult. I love the sport. My goal of retiring wasn’t to come out with a win or a loss. It’s been on my mind for a while. I felt the timing for this was right. Sean Castillo (CHS ’06) is the heir apparent for the job. He is knowledgeable in the curriculum and does a great job presenting the information. He has a great future. In reality, I am just sliding into the Navigator’s seat, as Coach Castillo will take the reins in piloting the Varsity program. I assure you the Islanders are in incredibly competent hands.” Castillo was a two-time High School All-American player under Burgess and currently teaches at CHS.
Burgess doesn’t expect to be far away from water polo as he is working with the National Evaluators Group, which is part of the NCAA. “Basically we evaluate all of the top water polo referees in both the men’s and women’s collegiate levels. I can do more of that now.”